John Alechenu

A coalition of twenty-four election monitoring groups under the aegis of Coalition of Election Monitors and Observers (CEMO),  Monday,  cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against signing the amendment to the Electoral Act 2022.

The coalition said signing the document at days to the crucial party primaries to elect Presidential candidates would be a disservice to Nigeria’s democracy.

National Convener of CEMO, Dr. Idris Yabu, said this while presenting a report after the meeting of the coalition, in Abuja, on Monday.

The group urged President Buhari to save the nation from a very serious political crisis by returning the Amendment Bill to the National Assembly for reprocessing for future elections.

CEMO, noted that though the amendment is desirable, signing the bill after most political parties have already commenced critical aspects of the electoral process under the current law is “dangerous, counter-productive, capable of triggering widespread political crisis and litigations that can derail the 2023 general elections.”

Yabu said,  “it is now too late since political parties have already commenced activities for the 2023 elections under the provisions of the extant law”.

The election monitors equally noted that President Buhari ought to have signed the bill earlier to give political parties a uniform direction for the nomination of candidates for the 2023 general elections, adding that signing the amendment at this time “would amount to “changing the rules in the middle of the game and disjointing the entire electoral process”.

According to the group , “After a very extensive review and consultations on the issue, we submit that the amendments sought to Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022, as desirable as they may be, have been overtaken by events leading to the 2023 general elections.

“It is instructive to note that political parties, especially the two major political parties in Nigeria have already started the electoral processes under the timelines, schedules and rules prescribed by the provisions of the extant Electoral Act 2022.

“More importantly, it must be noted that political parties have already structured their timetables, sold nomination forms, screened aspirants, conducted congresses, elected delegates, with major parties already holding primaries and candidates already emerging under the rules provided for in the current Electoral Act, 2022.

“In this regard, any alteration or amendment to the Electoral Act, at this moment, will amount to changing the rules in the middle of the game. Such will be “dangerous and counter-productive to our democratic process. It will trigger widespread political crisis and result in litigations that can derail the 2023 general elections.

“Our observation shows that political parties, aspirants and the electorate have already adjusted to the current provision of Section 84 of the Electoral Act. Candidates are already peacefully emerging. Any alteration at this moment has the propensity of dislocating the current political tranquility in the country and disrupt the entire electoral process.”

It further added that, “CEMO therefore urges President Muhammadu Buhari to save the nation from a serious political crisis at this moment by returning the Amendment Bill to the National Assembly for reprocessing for future elections.

“CEMO also urges the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to advice Mr. President in this direction to avoid political crisis and ensure the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections”, CEMO report stated.

Some political parties have in recent times brought pressure to bear on the president to assent to the amendment to current Section 84 (8) which provides that delegates to vote at the Indirect Primaries and National Convention of political parties to elect candidates for elections shall be those democratically elected for that purpose only.

The implication is that statutory delegates, such as elected political office holders, political appointees and executive officers of political parties are not eligible to vote at primaries to nominate candidates for the 2023 general election.

The new Section 84 has in effect drastically pruned the number of delegates for party indirect primaries and reduced the financial implications of delegate elections.

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